One Elden Ring player has attempted to get to the bottom of the game's perceived input reading, putting together a convincing explanation of why the game's enemies often feel like they're cheating.
Many enemies in Elden Ring respond very quickly to certain types of player actions. Some monsters might stab you the instant you start to heal. If you play a magic user, you've probably seen enemies dodge the second you fire off a spell. Players have suspected that enemies simply cheat by reacting to your button press rather than waiting for your action to play out in-game, labeling the unfair responses as "input reading". That's technically not how it works, but it might as well be.
According to Souls YouTuber Zullie the Witch, Elden Ring's monsters react to player actions as animations start to play. So technically, enemies are only reacting to in-game information, not input data. However, those reactions will happen the instant the frames of animation start to play. In the case of healing, that means they'll react as soon as your character starts reaching behind their back for the flask.
While it's not technically input reading, it sure feels like it, but there is one practical difference. As Zullie notes, you can queue up a heal action near the end of certain other animations, like dodging. Enemies could technically attack before you even start the healing animation if they were actually reading inputs, but they're polite enough to wait for the microsecond you start reaching for the flask.
This animation response system also seems to be why enemies will dodge magic attacks even when you're firing in completely the wrong direction, something players have been making fun of since launch.
Zullie admits that there's "some amount of conjecture" in this explanation, but without direct access to the decompiled game files, this is likely as close as we're going to get to a full read on Elden Ring's AI. Of course, that won't stop Malenia from impaling us every time we reach for the ol' healing flask.
Elden Ring's popularity isn't slowing down, with over 16 million copies sold.